Old friend

I can’t remember why
or even when
not exactly

It has been so very long now…

More years have passed
than I even imagined I would live

Now more old
than old friends
after half a lifetime
creating lives, growing up
chasing dreams, making do

Almost forgetting
just how tightly
laughter and music
the energy of shared joy
can bind the hearts
of the young at play.

Was it because I moved?
And then you moved?

It has been so very long now…

And all that time
Like a loose thread in my pocket
that I only notice when it gets caught between coins
you have been along for the ride

Just there enough
that I knew you
after all these years

Just there enough
that the laughter and singing
come easily
and joy
can’t help but follow
after all these years

I can’t remember why
or even when
Not that it matters, old friend.

Advertisements

Dust Settles

A poem for this Ash Wednesday.  In memory of Jesse. 

Dust and wind are not usually friends.
Fine particles are easily overwhelmed and scattered
Unless the wind is spirit
Unless the wind
is gathering dust
is breathing life.
Held together by water and love that claims each particle and proclaims it good,
dust and wind breathe together.
For a while
Until the work is done
And dust must settle again

Something Just Broke

These lyrics from Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins capture that seismic internal shift that occurs in one of those culturally significant moments.  Like when an assassin takes out a president or a shooter takes out a nightclub full of people. Or you lose a child.

(the whole thing is worth a listen, but especially from about 1:50 onward)

In those moments, something just, well, breaks.

I remember where I was the day the verdict came back freeing George Zimmerman.  I was alone and heard something in my heart crack as I pictured Trayvon Martin’s parents weeping. Again.

Then came Mike Brown.  Tamir Rice. Freddy Gray.  Sandy Bland. I heard that sound again and again and again.

Alton Sterling.
Philandro Castile.
The Dallas Police.

I remember them all.  And too many others.
I remember where I was, what I was looking at or listening to when I heard the news.
And that sound.
And the deep deep anguish of lamenting a part of our world that I feel powerless to change.

It’s funny – I don’t remember that same feeling for those other world-stopping moments in my lifetime. Not when Reagan was shot or John Lennon. Not when we lost the Challenger.  Not even the September 11 terrorist attacks.

I suspect because as horrific as those were, I can distance myself from them.
I cannot remove myself from the systems and structures of white supremacy.

I am white.
I grew up surrounded by farmland that had once been tended by slaves.  But the local history never really made that clear.
I grew up celebrating Juneteenth with my black schoolmates.  But I had been taught to focus on the joy of freedom that arrived on that day, not the fact that men, women and children had been kept ignorant of their freedom for years after emancipation.
I missed out on segregation in schools, but never thought to question why none of my black- and brown-skinned neighbors lived on the same side of the baseball park we shared as the rest of my friends… the white ones.

I (rightly, it turns out) assumed that my life would include college, marriage, home-ownership, access to medical care, travel with only minor inconveniences, a decent job at fair wages.  I never once asked my classmates from across the ballpark what they imagined their lives would be.

I took all those assumptions with me to college, where I first encountered a history book that taught westward expansion from the First Nations perspective. And the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow and Civil Rights from the African American perspective.  And I couldn’t quite make sense of it all.  I didn’t want it to be true.  And yet…

Remembering that semester, it was starting. The sound was still buried under too much naïveté to be audible. The weight of awareness and responsibility, too light to move beyond those initial misgivings.

If ignorance is bliss, as they say, willful ignorance is the offspring of bliss and evil. And racism is its bastard child.

I am ashamed to say that it took raising a child who was othered – a sexual minority, rather than an ethnic minority – for me to begin seeing the truth of segregation and oppression in this country. Standing on that intersection, I realized that I needed to learn as much about racial injustice as I had the experiences of the LGBTQ community.

The truth I found in the reading: I needed more than education. I needed to search my heart, but first I had to strip away all that my miseducation and willful ignorance had led me to wrap around it.

I confess when teaching and coaching young black men and women, I placed hardships on them and their families because I chose not to ask about transportation if I kept them after the busses ran or their friends left.  I made jokes about hair and hair products.  I made light of not getting their names right, even after I had been corrected.  I chose not to stop others who made “mildly racist” jokes in my presence.

I look back and am angry, embarrassed and ashamed. I could have done better. I could have educated myself. I should have asked questions – not of the all-white faculty, but of the parents and aunties and grandparents who came out to the games. I could have spent time listening to my students’ hopes and dreams, rather than projecting mine onto them. I should have been a better human.

I am getting better, but confess I have a long way to go. I am listening more and learning to see my defensiveness as a cue to shut up, rather than lash out or attempt to explain myself.   My heart is more tender, though not nearly enough.

I wrote this poem as events unfolded in Ferguson, Missouri, following the yessir of Muchael Brown. Tensions were high then, as they are now.  And I found myself reacting to that weird anxiety here in Central Florida. And in my own interior world.   I come back to this poem in my posts regularly, and it grieves me to say, I am still unlearning the ignorance and hate I have harbored for far too long.

I hate the part of me that hates

I hate the part of me that hates
others without knowing them
allowing the pictures and stories
consumed over time
to gnaw at reality,
to train me to believe
the person who dresses this way
or talks that way
is more dangerous
than 
this one over here
who
by dint of genetics and cosmic randomness
looks, talks
seems
more like me

I hate the part of me that hates
to be told
I am part of the problem
part the system that continues to place
them
in a different category
on a different trajectory

I hate the part of me that learned
on seeing the brown-ness of skin
to hate
to fear
to withdraw
so that I must recalibrate
and reorient
my vision to see the human-ness of skin

I hate the part of me that waits
too silent
too compliant
too complicit
too comfortable
I sit when I am called to stand
I speak when I am called to listen
I tolerate when I am called to love

I hate the part of me that hates
and so I pray
the part of me that hates
would  be no more
and would be no less
than the memory
that propels me out of my comfort
and into your pain

 

Of Bathrooms and Feet

You gave to us, to me, a new commandment

 

Love now
Love boldly
Love unconditionally
Love your way out of power and into solidarity
Love your way out of influence and into community

You are already clean
Live into your baptism
Kneel and serve

You are already mine
Live into your baptism
Kneel and serve

You are already powerful
Live into your baptism
Kneel and serve

You are finally awake
Live into your baptism
Kneel and serve

—-

When Maundy Thursday and NC HB2 collide

Full

NaBloPoMo Day 26: poem… Write a poem for the day… About anything… Any poetic form.

Floats and Balloons carrying expectations of sales and traffic
Newspapers swollen three times their size
Pretend families eat perfect meals and find perfect bargains
On every channel
Projecting want, hunger, desire

But I am already
Content
Aware
Loved

Full

How can I keep from singing? 

NaBloPoMo Day 8:
Write briefly – oh , so briefly- about your favorite hymn line or stanza.

This might be the easiest prompt yet. It took me all of three seconds to choose two hymns: Come Thou Font of Every Blessing and the haunting words of O Sacred Head Now Wounded. In particular,  these portions:

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love!
Here’s my heart, oh take and seal it
Seal it for thy courts above

And…

What language shall I borrow
To thank Thee, dearest Friend,
For this, Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
Oh, make me thine forever!
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never,
Outlive my love for Thee

Both are such beautiful confessions of my need of and my desire for the work of Christ in my life. Every day.

Gone

I am not ok.
I am on my bed

alone

crying.

So very not ok.

Because this grief shit is complicated.
Because every time I start to cry-
for her,
for him-
the thought of you steals in
and
the last tears never come
the ones that would cleanse me of that early sorrow
over her death.

And his.
And his, too.

But they can’t flow around the tears that come
for you.

Those never stop.
They’re never good in a queue
like good WASPy tears ought to be.

These ones come barreling through
noisy and obvious,
ugly in their insistence,
leaving me crumpled and exhausted
and wondering

will this never end?

Not this crying jag-
the separation,
the silence,
the ache,

the need to not think about you,
which causes me to think about you.

Like that damnable game.
But I want to lose this one,
sort of.

Thinking of you is all I have of you
right now.

And these complicated tears.

Steps of Faith

When I hold back and wait
When I worry that if I make too much noise
When I wonder if I should not get too excited
Does that mean I’m not walking by faith?

or

Am I just being careful not to run ahead?

Straddling the now and the not yet is part of who we are…
Churchfolk, followers of the Way
of the One who promises
to make this world more like the world God intended, intends.

Dreaming, Hoping, Waiting for what might be
and
Being fully Present

Doing the work that is in front of me
right here
right now

Good work
Prepared for me in advance
Preparing me in advance.

Right?

Left

Right

One Step at a Time

I hate the part of me that hates

written as events unfold in Ferguson MO surrounding the shooting of Mike Brown.  And in my own back yard.  And in my own interior world.

I hate the part of me that hates
others without knowing them
allowing the pictures and stories
consumed over time
to gnaw at reality,
to train me to believe
the person who dresses this way
or talks that way
is more dangerous
than 
this one over here
who
by dint of genetics and cosmic randomness
looks, talks
seems
more like me

I hate the part of me that hates
to be told
I am part of the problem
part the system that continues to place
them
in a different category
on a different trajectory

I hate the part of me that learned
on seeing the brown-ness of skin
to hate
to fear
to withdraw
so that I must recalibrate
and reorient
my vision to see the human-ness of skin

I hate the part of me that waits
too silent
too compliant
too complicit
too comfortable
I sit when I am called to stand
I speak when I am called to listen
I tolerate when I am called to love

I hate the part of me that hates
and so I pray
the part of me that hates
would  be no more
and would be no less
than the memory
that propels me out of my comfort
and into your pain

I am from

A year ago, at a conference, a speaker introduced herself with a poem. She connected her identity to her people (she is Native American) and to the land, as well as the experiences and beliefs that have shaped her. As part of her presentation, she challenged us to consider our identity, to articulate where and who we come from.

This past weekend, as I prepared to lead a Bible Study wrap up for a local PW gathering, I found myself thinking about Exodus (the whole of Scripture, really) as a way of teaching who God is, as well as where/who we come from as children of God.

So I thought it would be interesting to create a poem together for the Hebrew people as a preamble to our personal poems. I drafted my own to provide an example…

I am from dogwoods and rolling hills,
From red dirt that blows in breezes and is swept up in twisters,
From bluebonnets and cotton farms along the Brazos.

I am from strong hands that held the plow,
harvested the wheat and
canned sweet tender fruit for the winter.

I am from guiding hands that rang the school bell,
showed smaller hands how to write and
gathered in students ready to learn.

I come from women who broke boundaries and paved new roads,
From generations of mothers who saw strength and passion in their daughters.

I am from Baptists, Methodists, Disciples and Presbyterians.
I am from rocking chairs where hymns were hummed over fussy babes.
I am from Noah’s Ark murals and Youth Sunday skits.
I am from summer camp, Sunday School and VBS.

I am darkness, the sort one picks up by walking away from the safety of the light.
I am light carried into spaces made dark by death, despair and pain.

I am the choices I’ve made, good, bad and awful.
I am the person God made,
fearfully and wonderfully crafted,
Joyfully claimed,
Fully redeemed.